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Old Friday 17th February 2017, 21:27   #1
Jaysan
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Photographing from a boat

Hello,

In my recent trip to Madeira I went on a whale watching trip. Though we were unlucky, it wasnt a total failure as we did see Cory's shearwater and a Manx shearwater.

We had around 2m swells and I was struggling to get a shot of the birds. As you can see the images are not clear. The Cory's seemed to hug the waves and I really struggled getting a proper shot.

I have a Canon EOS 450D, 100-400mm. I went with shutter priority (1/1600), auto ISO, spot focus. Light was decent enough. Is there something I could have done in such conditions to improve my chances?

Thanks,
Jasan.
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Old Saturday 18th February 2017, 12:23   #2
kitefarrago
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When you are moving and the target is moving then keeping the spot that you're spot-focussing on where it needs to be becomes hugely difficult.

It's quite clear from your pictures that your camera focussed where it thought you wanted it to focus. In my experience under those condutions it's better to go with a wide focus setting. There's a lot of contrast in a bird in front of the sky or the sea, and modern cameras are pretty good in picking up on this, so my recommendation would be to change the focus mode next time.

Since I assume these trips don't come up very often you can try out what your camera does under these circumstances by using a wide focus mode when you have birds against a fairly quiet background, such as the sky. I don't know your specific model, but I do know that mine is better than finding the subject in these circumstnaces than I am in keeping the camera pointing exactly where it would need to point for spot focus.

Andrea
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Old Saturday 18th February 2017, 13:41   #3
btooze
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I had the same problem trying to photograph whales, all I got was sea, tail and humps.
A friend of mine showed me his photographs and they were great.
He set his camera to video mode, shot 30 seconds of video and then extracted the best image using editing software. It may be a cheat but it works.
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Old Wednesday 7th June 2017, 11:04   #4
Arbu
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I'm in Madeira at the moment, getting a lot of out of focus shots. I'll try using aperture priority with a high setting. I would prefer if my camera can adjust the iso to compensate rather than the shutter speed
Anyone know how I do this?
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Old Saturday 10th June 2017, 20:39   #5
Jaysan
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Thanks Andrea and Btooze. Good tips. Will give it a try (though I dont have a camera with a video mode unfortunately). Sorry havent been visiting the website recently.

As for Arbu, sorry, I dont know much about this. But found these links (http://www.nikonusa.com/en/learn-and...-auto-iso.html, http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resou..._AutoISO.shtml) for Nikon and Canon respectively.

Have fun in Madeira.

Regards,
Jaysan.

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Old Saturday 10th June 2017, 21:19   #6
njlarsen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arbu View Post
I'm in Madeira at the moment, getting a lot of out of focus shots. I'll try using aperture priority with a high setting. I would prefer if my camera can adjust the iso to compensate rather than the shutter speed
Anyone know how I do this?
If the cloud cover is fairly constant, you can use fully manual: set a fast shutter, the aperture you want, and adjust iso manually until the result is reasonable. The other thing is to prefocus almost at the right distance and then use a center focus point to get onto what you want.

Niels
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Old Thursday 15th June 2017, 09:58   #7
Arbu
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaysan View Post
Thanks Andrea and Btooze. Good tips. Will give it a try (though I dont have a camera with a video mode unfortunately). Sorry havent been visiting the website recently.

As for Arbu, sorry, I dont know much about this. But found these links (http://www.nikonusa.com/en/learn-and...-auto-iso.html, http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resou..._AutoISO.shtml) for Nikon and Canon respectively.

Have fun in Madeira.

Regards,
Jaysan.
Thanks. I note this:

"For the first time with an EOS SLR, the shooter can set a minimum shutter speed used with Auto ISO. If the shutter speed drops below this user-set value, the Auto ISO will automatically be raised"

That sounds like what I need although I only have a Canon 700D which I don't think offers this option. However my camera did do what I wanted - it took all photos at c. 1/500th of a second and adjusted the ISO to get an appropriate exposure based on the aperture that I had selected. I'll post some results shortly.
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Old Thursday 15th June 2017, 10:03   #8
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Here are photos from the first day, which was cloudy, taken with centre point focussing and automated aperture selection. They have ISOs of 1-200 (except for the White-faced Storm-Petrel which is 500) and apertures of 5.6-8.
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Old Thursday 15th June 2017, 10:17   #9
Arbu
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And from the second day (the first two) and the third day (the last three). Both days were sunny. Those from the second day have apertures of f16 and ISOs of 640 and 125. Those from the third day have apertures of f32 and ISOs of 2-3000.

I think we can agree that the photos from the first day are the best. The higher aperture from the subsequent days doesn't really seem to have given me sharper photos and the birds seem to have a bit of a look as if they are outlines pasted on to the background. In both cases I got probably 90% dud photos. The best photos with the low aperture are much better than the best photos with the high aperture because they have a low ISO. So I think that just using the auto setting with centre focusing and maybe underexposing a notch or two is the way forward.
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Old Thursday 15th June 2017, 10:31   #10
Arbu
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btw I think that the last photo of the first set is a Zino's Petrel and the third photos in both sets are Fea's, but if anyone disagrees please say!

Sorry, I hope the OP doesn't mind me slightly hijacking his thread like this. It seems I saw more than him, but we certainly had to pay to see these birds.

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Old Wednesday 28th June 2017, 13:59   #11
Elle Harper
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I like these photos, maybe you should work a bit on retouching, I found one useful link with reviews of photo editing services,hope it'll be suitable for you https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-2...ennifer-mulrow
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Old Wednesday 28th June 2017, 19:02   #12
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I really liked those photos Arbu: the head on shots of the Bulwer's petrel and the Corey especially! I have a lot of memories of Coreys (cagarras) ranging tirelessly over the ocean and gathering in noisy groups over feeding dolphins, bigeye tuna and whales on the south coast of Madeira where I have spent many days on the water. Cagarras are the bird that the local fishermen consider the best sign of big game fish.

I am a neophyte photographer but it seems to me that the high apertures (f16 and f32) aren't needed for the shots you are trying to achieve. I have a 30D - high ISO performance of this antique artifact isn't good so in bright sunlight I would probably set the ISO to around 400 and try shooting a batch of shots at shutter priority (trying a couple different shutter speeds) and then aperture priority at say f8. Sunny days in Madeira are extremely sunny - you'll have a lot of light to work with and this should enable you to drop down your ISO into a range (400-600?) where your 700D should work very well.
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Old Saturday 1st July 2017, 11:34   #13
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I do most of my photography from boats and its taken a long time to work out the best setting and technique to use.

I now shoot exclusively in manual mode, if the light is consistent I typically only need 2 shutter speeds, one for white birds such as terns or albatross and one for dark birds such as shearwaters and petrels. I set the aperture down to 2.8 to start with but sometimes go a bit higher depending on the type of photo I'm taking. The ISO should be as low as possible while maintaining a high shutter speed.

A single point focal point can be difficult unless conditions are calm and you are photographing something big like an albatross, I tend to use centre point expanded for best results. I also use AI servo which tracks moving objects and if your lens has 2 image stabilisation modes then mode 2 is best.

One thing I still find difficult is focusing on birds close to the water. If a bird is flying above the water with the sky as the background the camera should easily focus on the bird rather than the sky, with a bird close to the water its easy for the camera to focus on the water by accident as the water is often very close to the bird. In this case I would focus on the bird and take one shot then try to focus on the bird again and take another shot and keep repeating. I've taken far to many bursts in this situation and ended up with nothing but out of focus shots.

Attached is a photo from last weekends Kiama pelagic of a white-capped Albatross.

Happy to help out if anyone has any more questions.

Cheers.

Rob
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Old Saturday 1st July 2017, 21:38   #14
Arbu
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobHynson View Post
I do most of my photography from boats and its taken a long time to work out the best setting and technique to use.

I now shoot exclusively in manual mode, if the light is consistent I typically only need 2 shutter speeds, one for white birds such as terns or albatross and one for dark birds such as shearwaters and petrels. I set the aperture down to 2.8 to start with but sometimes go a bit higher depending on the type of photo I'm taking. The ISO should be as low as possible while maintaining a high shutter speed.

A single point focal point can be difficult unless conditions are calm and you are photographing something big like an albatross, I tend to use centre point expanded for best results. I also use AI servo which tracks moving objects and if your lens has 2 image stabilisation modes then mode 2 is best.

One thing I still find difficult is focusing on birds close to the water. If a bird is flying above the water with the sky as the background the camera should easily focus on the bird rather than the sky, with a bird close to the water its easy for the camera to focus on the water by accident as the water is often very close to the bird. In this case I would focus on the bird and take one shot then try to focus on the bird again and take another shot and keep repeating. I've taken far to many bursts in this situation and ended up with nothing but out of focus shots.

Attached is a photo from last weekends Kiama pelagic of a white-capped Albatross.

Happy to help out if anyone has any more questions.

Cheers.

Rob
Interesting, thanks. I never imagined there was much call for the manual mode. So I suppose you work out the two shutter speeds that you need, based on the lighting conditions for the day, keep them in mind, and switch quickly between them depending on what type of bird is approaching?
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Old Tuesday 11th July 2017, 06:09   #15
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Hi Arbu.

that's right, we get a lot of all dark shearwaters and petrels plus some birds like albatross that are fairly white, especially their underparts. Once you work out the shutter speed for these two birds you just switch between the two once you see which bird is approaching. This takes the guessing component out of the equations in other modes you can use.
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Old Tuesday 11th July 2017, 13:47   #16
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Hi Jaysan,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaysan View Post
We had around 2m swells and I was struggling to get a shot of the birds. As you can see the images are not clear. The Cory's seemed to hug the waves and I really struggled getting a proper shot.
If the struggling included keeping the bird in the frame, maybe a reflex sight would help? I have no experience with shooting birds from boats, but a reflex sight helped me to capture swifts in rapid flight at fairly close distance, where I couldn't have framed them with a through-the-lens viewfinder, whether optical or electronic.

The Olympus EE-1 is a reflex sight aimed at the photography market, though I'm using a "BB gun" sight in combination with an Xtendasight adapter so it fits on the hotshoe.

Here's a picture of my FZ1000 with the commercially available Xtendasight adapter in front of the rig, and the sight mounted on a (smaller, lighter) 3D printed adapter:

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Another variant for the use with my 50 - 500 mm Sigma is to mount the sight on a 3D-printed adapter on the lens collar:

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Other than that, I agree with the advice to try manual exposure settings, and have no recipe against the autofocus locking on the background either :-/

Regards,

Henning
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Old Wednesday 12th July 2017, 13:57   #17
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Hi,

I would support the advice for using manual metering - in my limited experience I think the key problems are acquiring focus and freezing the action, in a situation where birds are moving rapidly from a sky to sea background, and the sea, the boat, you and your camera are all moving in potentially different directions.
In sunny conditions on a Mar Ilimitado pelagic off Sagres (in a RIB with reasonably high swell) I set the shutter to 1/5000 and aperture to f4 (thinking the latter would help with focus acquisition) on my D7200 / 300 f4 PF combo, and let the ISO do it's own thing - bearing in mind light was good.
The main issue as previous posters have correctly identified is just getting the bird in the frame, then making sure focus is on the bird, not the sea (sky is easier...). I had pattern metering set, and results were acceptable to me, although with high contrast levels they were never going to win any prizes. Perhaps a smaller aperture would have helped with DOF too.
I had another recent opportunity on a Coquet Island boat trip (converted lifeboat, lighter swell, but still enough to rock boat around) - here I forgot what I had learned and used 9-point focussing, when I think I should've had a wider pattern - 9-point works well in other situations, including BIF, when it is easier to get the bird centred in the frame.
Examples attached were all RAW files, with some sharpening and shadow lightening using proprietary Nikon NX-D software.
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